Bone broth is one of those ubiquitous Paleo foods that everyone is talking about. Still, if you’re not hardcore Paleo, or if you’re new to Paleo, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Why is bone broth such a great superfood versus just normal soup stock? What’s the skinny on this boiled bones liquid, anyway?
Bone Broth Is Nutrient Dense
One of the key differences between soup stock and bone broth is how they’re made. Soup stock is often made from cooking meat (and sometimes bones, as in using a whole chicken) in water, herbs, and vegetables to get a savory liquid that can be used as a soup base. While this is quite healthy, an even more nutrient-dense liquid can be produced by boiling the bones themselves to extract the nutrients directly. The result is going to be less savory in taste, and more fatty—but this fat is what contains the bone marrow and other nutrients that make it such a superfood. Of course bone broth and soup stock can always be mixed to create a nutritionally dense soup, but when people discuss why bone broth is so healthy, it primarily comes down to the way that it’s prepared.
What’s In A Bone (Broth)?
So what exactly is in bone broth that makes it so nutritionally epic? Well, we already discussed how it’s prepared: by either pressure cooking (shorter) or boiling (longer, even up to 36-48 hours) bones, nutrients are extracted during the cooking process, including collagen, gelatin, glycine, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and more. But here is where determing nutrient values of bone broths gets tricky, because depending on your cooking method, length of cooking, and types of bone being used, the percentages of each of these nutrients is going to vary. Lots of Paleo blog posts and articles have tried to determine what, exactly, the nutrient info of bone broth is. The answer is that if you’re making your own, it can be nearly impossible to know for sure. Does that make it any less healthy? Nope. Our ancestors cooked and ate bone broth without having to know the RDA of each nutrient contained therein.
We know that bone broth is healthy because of the nutrients contained in the bones. While some might view bones as calcified fragments of a whole (the skeleton), bones themselves are actually organs that are part of the skeletal system. Bones are not made once when you’re born, never changing for the rest of your life. In fact, bones are continuously being broken down and remade, which is why consistent intake of bone-nourishing nutrients is important in the first place. By eating bone nutrients from grassfed animals, we are not only supporting our living skeletal systems, we are making use of the complete animal. Sure, the meat is the most popular, but when your food is coming from pastured animals, Paleo excels at helping to be sure we get the benefits of the whole. It’s why grassfed liver and other offal are so popular in the Paleo world, and yes, why bone broth is, too. There really isn’t anything more caveman-esque than using the entire animal, because then it wasn’t as simple as going to the market and purchasing the cuts of meat that you preferred. They hunted and killed one animal at a time, and then they used the entire thing to meet their nutritional needs. They weren’t picky by saying that they didn’t prefer organ meat, and they didn’t toss the bones the wayside because they didn’t have time to make bone broth. It was their way of life, and they didn’t know better.
Sure, we live in a day and age where we don’t have to worry about using every part of an animal, but could we nutritionally benefit from adopting that mindset once more? Of course we could, because the vitamins and minerals contained in meat differs from organ meat, which differs from bones, and so on. By choosing to incorporate more than just grassfed meats into our diets, we choose to more fully support our total body systems in a much more holistic way than just popping mineral supplements or taking encapsulated liver nutrients.
What Bone Broth Can Do For You
So we mentioned nutrients that are found in bone broth, but what, specifically, can those nutrients do for you total health? To name a few, bone broth is excellent for:
- Improve joint health
- Support bone health
- Speed wound healing and cell regeneration, thanks to amino acids
- Promote anti-inflammatory responses within the body, thanks to collagen and gelatin
- Strengthen immune support, which is beneficial for those with weakened immune systems and overactive ones
- Support tight junctions in the small intestine and help to heal and reverse leaky gut syndrome
- Enable the body to heal from and reverse many food intolerances and digestive issues (as a direct result of addressing leaky gut)
- Improves hair and skin health, again from the collagen and gelatin, which have anti-aging properties
- Promotes relaxation and stress relief in the body because of glycine, an amino acid that helps to calm the nervous system
- Strengthens and “cleans” the cardiovascular system because of proline, which can help to reduce arterial blockages or prevent them
Paleo is obviously exclusively about eating whole foods that nourish the body, and excluding foods that for many people can be destructive or obstructive to the goals of supporting digestion and encouraging total body wellness. Bone broth is a Paleo superfood because it is nutrient dense and it has widespread beneficial implications for multiple body systems.
Aimee McNew, MNT, Certified Nutritionist